Sometimes, you might hear someone disdainfully comment about a nonstandard English word, “That’s just a made-up word.”
You might then hear someone counter by saying, “All words are made up,” and this is true. Language does not operate based on scientific principles in the way that, for example, gravity does.
However, the main purpose of language is communication, and if only a few people have adopted a word, it has limited usage.
The English language is very democratic in this way. Words or usages that are widely embraced eventually become a standard part of the language while those that do not disappear.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the word “infrastructure.”
What is the meaning of “intrastructure”?
“Intrastructure” is a word created by a blogger named Lorcan Dempsey in 2004 to talk about the interaction of people within an organization using various technology resources. It has a very limited usage, would not be recognized by most people and is often confused with the word “infrastructure.”
What is the background of the word “intrastructure”?
The background of the word “intrastructure” is that in 2004, a blogger named Lorcan Dempsey, who is a librarian who has worked in the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland, used the phrase in a very brief blog post.
You will find very little other information about the word online. In fact, the only other significant use of it is via a post on LinkedIn in 2020, in which an IT leader named Dave Krause calls for its expansion to include everything that is within the organization.
He notes in his post that this is consistent with the prefix “intra,” which means “within,” compared to “infra,” which means “beneath” and suggests a foundation.
Here are a few ways you might see “intrastructure” used within this context:
How is “intrastructure” different from “infrastructure”?
In English, prefixes sometimes change the meaning of a word that have the same ending. This is the case with the words impelled versus compelled, for example.
As mentioned above, the prefix “intra” means “within” while the prefix “infra” means “beneath.”
Besides the difference in meaning, the other main difference between these two words is that “infrastructure” is a common, well-established word.
It also has a broader usage. “Infrastructure” is not just about the organizational structures within a company or organization but is also about physical structures, such as bridges and roads.
You may have heard or read something in the news about President Biden’s proposed “infrastructure package.” This is an ambitious proposal that encompasses the improvement of everything from public transportation and roads to internet access, drinking water and cleaner energy options.
In comparison, if a committee were formed to implement this proposal the word “intrastructure” might be used to describe the tools and ways in which this committee interacts.
Here’s another example:
We need to improve the library’s infrastructure.
In the above sentence, the speaker is saying that many different elements of the library need improving.
This could include the buildings the book are housed in, the computer systems and even the physical furnishings in the library.
We need to improve the library’s intrastructure.
In the above sentence, the speaker is probably talking more about overhauling the software and other systems that allow the employees to organize various projects and interact with one another.
When should “infrastructure” be used in conversation or writing?
Unless you are working with an audience that is already familiar with the word “intrastructure,” using it is likely to lead to confusion.
When it comes to language, ultimately what matters is that the people you are communicating with understand you. You could always introduce its use within your organization, but it is likely that you would need to define it for people and explain its origins.
Whether or not “intrastructure” eventually really catches on or is abandoned remains to be seen.
One factor that is on the side of its survival is that it defines a concept that we really do not have a single word for in English.
This is different from a word like vegen, which is simply a misspelling of what is already a standard word, vegan.
However, you should be aware that if you use it without defining it and making reference to its origins, it is likely that people will think you are misusing the word “infrastructure.”
If you see or hear someone else use “intrastructure,” you should also be aware that it is not uncommon for people to mix this word up for “infrastructure.” You may want to check to make sure which one they mean.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.